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Flyhalf Johnny Sexton will return to captain the Ireland team against Russia in Kobe on Thursday as coach Joe Schmidt made 11 changes in his bid to pick up the pieces following the shock World Cup defeat to Japan.

Sexton was not risked on Saturday in an otherwise near full strength side because of the minor thigh strain picked up in opening bonus point win over Scotland but said he felt good and ready to go having kicked in the last two days of training.

Ireland will qualify for the last eight with bonus-point wins over Russia and Samoa, and could still top Pool A and secure a potentially less difficult quarter-final if Japan slip up in their remaining two games.

“We’ve got some guys who have been very, very keen to be involved,” Schmidt told a news conference

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